All the way from Glendale, a small child reached out to east Mesa 13-year-old Jaimee Banks.
For 10 minutes, the anonymous child didn’t feel so alone as the two played a cartoon trivia game over the phone.
While Banks will never know the name or face of the child, she said she hopes her short-lived relationship will help the little girl feel important and safe.
"It just makes them happy," she said, "instead of just being home — and ho-hum."
Banks is the youngest of dozens of volunteers who, throughout the year, converge in the afternoon at a small Tempe office to offer a warm phone line for kids who spend their afternoons alone.
Phone Friend, one of a handful of child outreach programs sponsored by the Association for Supportive Childcare, is meant to give latchkey children, or children babysat by other children, someone to talk to.
Volunteers — mostly high school and college students and adults — offer help with homework, advice for problems and a friendly voice when home may otherwise be silent.
The national nonprofit organization began establishing phone banks across the state in 1985. The Arizona office was one of the first, opening in 1986.
School-age children can call up to three times a day for 10-minute conversations. Some become regulars and routinely ask for the same volunteers.
Children are directed to call emergency services in cases of suspected abuse or emergencies, though to protect children and teach them not to give out information to strangers, no information about children is collected by the phone bank, said operations coordinator Blaise Karpiak.
According to data released in March by the national Afterschool Alliance, onethird of Arizona children of working families are unsupervised in the afternoon. About 11 percent of the children of Arizona working families attend afternoon afterschool programs.
"We’re just somebody to talk to," said Katie Sollenberger, 17, of Phoenix as she hung up the phone after playing games with another child. "It’s pretty much all about fun after school — for some children, it would be nice to have somebody to talk to."
Call (602) 253-9099 or play games online at www.asccaz.org.